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How to Create Great Projects for Groups and Individuals

I have always been a relaxed homeschooler. Beyond basic reading, writing, and arithmetic, our schooling has consisted of discovery through field trips, adventures, and projects. Projects are a great way to go deep into an interesting subject. Additionally, when a project is completed, a student has something to show off and be proud of. My children have kept their projects for many years and remember the content in the report for just as long.

There are many ways to do projects. I'll share with you the method I've used for over 20 years. It's good guide with a lot of flexibility.

There are four parts to a project:

  1. research

  2. written report

  3. display

  4. oral report

The length and complexity of the project will depend on the abilitiy of the individual children.

It may sound like a lot of work, but the project is meant to be spread over several weeks. I have found that one month is not quite enough time, but if it's stretched over two months, the students start to lose interest. Six weeks tends to be a sweet spot. With that in mind, here is the project outline I use:

Week 1:

  1. Choose a topic.

I encourage the students to choose a topic that goes along with other things you're studying and/or field trips you might have scheduled. You may want to give some guidance here. Too many times I have had students tell me they want to do a report on Minecraft. This might be a good first report to give students report-writing experience, but I would prefer to have students dive into a more academic subject. This happened with our “Burbank Brownies” class. The students voted to make a report on Minecraft. As the teacher, I made the decision to make the report about the runner-up topic, and have them use Minecraft to make the display. The students were excited about this!

  1. What do I know already know about the topic? Have your child write down or tell you what they already know about the topic. This may include their reason for choosing the topic and what they like about it.

  2. What do I want to know about the topic? This step is not imperative, but may help to give perspective. Often, the students do not know what they do not know. You may want to offer some questions of your own, just to get them started.

  3. Chose a display to make. To go along with the written and oral reports, it's good to have something to show. It's a good idea to start on the display early to make sure there's plenty of time to make an impressive display. There are many interesting displays that a child can create. Here are some ideas:

  • board game

  • blog

  • collection

  • craft

  • demonstration

  • diorama

  • display

  • dramatization

  • experiment

  • garden

  • handicraft display

  • illustrated story

  • instruction manual

  • invention

  • labeled diagram

  • lapbook

  • lego model

  • magazine or newspaper

  • map with legend

  • minecraft builds

  • mobile

  • model

  • mural

  • museum

  • needlework

  • novel

  • painting

  • pamphlet

  • paper folding

  • papier-mâché

  • photo album

  • photography

  • podcast

  • poem

  • PowerPoint presentation

  • puppet show

  • quilt

  • research paper

  • scrapbook

  • service project shadow play

  • slide show

  • skit

  • start a business

  • terrarium

  • timeline

  • video production

  • website

  • other—use your imagination!

Weeks 2 & 3:

  1. Investigate, research and observe the topic. There are many ways to research a topic. This research can be just as important as creating the finished project. In addition to Googling, students should include at least two other resources. These are the experiences that make the learning profound and memorable. Resources can include:

  • interview authorities

  • read books and watch videos

  • have family discussions and activities

  • visit places with knowledge of the topic

  • search the internet

  • perform experiments

  • conduct surveys

  1. Keep a record of findings. These records do not need to be formal in any way. You can:

  • print interesting things from the Internet or bookmark pages

  • jot things in a notebook

  • collect brochures

  • memorize things

  • underline passages in a book and turn down a page corner

  • take pictures

  • make sketches

  • copy and paste information into a word document

Week 4:

  1. Make a mind map Use a mind map to start to organize your findings. Put the topic in the center, with related information branching out from there.

  2. Make an outline.

Using the mind map as a guide, put the information into an order that would make sense for a written report.

  1. Write a rough draft.

Using the outline as a guide, write a first draft of your written report.

Week 5:

  1. Edit your paper and write a final draft. Rather than “correcting” your child's writing for him, go through the report with your child, explaining ways he can make the report more correct.

  2. Finish the display.

Week 6:

  1. Present your project in an oral report. This is the opportunity for your child to show off what he knows. The presentation may vary depending on what he's ready for. He could:

  • show and describe the display

  • give an oral report based on the outline

  • recite the memorized written report

  • read the written report

That's it! Let us know how your projects go for you!

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